Culture

Coronavirus fears shutter Gulf arts events

BEIRUT: Two important arts events scheduled for the Gulf region this month have been shuttered in response to fears of the coronavirus (aka COVID-19). The Doha Film Institute announced Tuesday the cancellation of Qumra, its yearly film incubation platform. Later the managers of Art Dubai announced it would “postpone" the 14th edition of the emirate’s yearly fair of contemporary and modern art.

Now in its sixth year, Qumra assembles young filmmakers working on freshman and sophomore projects, from the Arab world and beyond, and brings them together with film masters, mentors and well-placed industry figures (producers, festival representatives, distributors, etc).

Referencing Qatar Museums chair Sheikha Al-Mayassa Bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and DFI, the press release said “the wellbeing of the residents and visitors to Qatar remains our first priority. Due to current global concern regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, with an awareness of our responsibility towards the health and safety of our valued guests and partners and in an effort to reduce travel during this time, the decision has been made to cancel the 2020 edition of Qumra and its related activities.”

DFI announced the final line-up of A-list cinema professionals (the masters) and Qumra’s film projects line-up last week during the Berlin Film Festival. French auteur Claire Denis and BAFTA and Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Phedon Papamichael were to be joined by celebrated writer-director James Gray, award-winning director and screenwriter Jessica Hausner and Oscar-winning sound designer Mark Mangini.

This year’s edition Qumra would provide networking and development opportunities for 46 film and series projects in various stages of development from 20 countries. While 20 of these projects are by Qatar-based talent, ten of them involve Lebanese filmmakers or producers, suggesting something of the event’s regional resonance.

“The 46 selected projects remain a priority for DFI this year,” the press release continued. “We will work internally to find solutions to best support them through this period of new challenges and will inform you of opportunities where you can contribute to the success of this year's selected projects.”

With the World Health Organization confirming that, as of March 3, 2020, more than 3,000 people have died globally from COVID-19, with 89,000 infections in dozens of countries, it’s no surprise that large-scale international cultural gatherings have taken a hit. Tuesday also witnessed the cancellation of the 2020 Leipzig Book Fair, scheduled for March 12-15, also due to the new coronavirus strain.

Art Basel Hong Kong, which had been scheduled to open on March 19, was cancelled on Feb. 6. The undoing of this, the first of Art Basel’s three branded modern and contemporary art fairs of the calendar year, compelled its managers to move up the debut of a new digital platform.

Online viewing rooms will go live from March 20-25 after two VIP preview days. The digital initiative will be open for free to galleries that had been accepted to participate in the Hong Kong fair. The “rooms” should allow collectors to browse through thousands of works and directly contact galleries.

In their press release of March 3 Art Dubai’s team – CEO Benedict Floyd, artistic director Pablo del Val, and international director Chloe Vaitsou – proposed a more ambivalent plan of action. Rather than cancelling the 2020 edition of the fair, scheduled for March 25-28, they outlined a “postponement,” with local actors participating in programmed events (exhibitions, talks, local and regional gallery presentations) on the same dates, which overseas guests are welcome to attend.

“Given the essential role the fair plays in promoting local and regional artists,” the press release declared, “we have made the decision to stage a programme tailored to the local cultural community instead, including existing fair programme contributors and thought-leaders.”

“The goals and ambitions for this re-configured programme maintain our objective to deliver commercial, institutional and critical engagement with Dubai’s art ecosystem,” the press release continued, “a commitment of support to our local community that we felt an imperative to uphold.

“Further details of the programme will be announced in due course. With Dubai deploying the strictest medical and hygiene protocols, we will welcome international visitors in March, recommending that individuals follow advice from the authorities of their resident countries.” – With AP

 

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